The Silent Killer

The increasing problem in Suicide particular in young men has made headlines and become a massive talking point once again following the death of 26 year old reality television star Mike Thalassitis after it was revealed had taken his own life and was discovered hanging in a park in central London.

It has emerged that the Love Island star is not the only Love Island celebrity that has passed away. Sophie Grandon aged 32 died of an alleged suicide attempt.

Across all the media mediums i have viewed regarding this subject matter one word keeps re appearing, Shame.

Men feel ashamed, embarrassed and weak of expressing there emotions, i am reassuring other men that there is no shame and shouldn’t be any stigma and ignorance in depression.

As a man who is recovering from mental health problems and I have struggled with extreme thoughts of sucide and attempts. I have had to face up to shame and discuss it in detail.  It has been painful and at time’s frightening process but one that has been key to my recovery as i had to open up to begin accessing the most important, effective and relative support services.

In my opinion as a society, we most definitely need to begin having discussions about shame, guilt, embarrassment, lack of awareness and understanding and the dark places that it can lead to when people’s feelings of shame get out of control.  When we look at the problem of male suicide and men’s mental health in general, we need to look at how our society sets up young men to experience potentially unmanageable levels of shame and we need to work together to build a society where this is no longer the case.

Shame can be about any number of things, often contradictory: thinking of suicide, being unable to stop thinking of suicide, not acting on suicidal thoughts, acting on suicidal thoughts, and so on.

Shame especially can follow a suicide attempt.

Causes of Shame

Just as suicidal thoughts can lead to shame, shame can lead to suicidal thoughts. It is a merciless cycle of pain: one begets the other.

“Thinking of suicide means I’m weak,” clients have told me.

“I’m a loser, a failure.”

“I should be able to cope.”

“I’m a bad person.”

Lost in all the self-condemnation is the understanding and acceptance of suicidal thoughts as a symptom. Suicidal thoughts can be a symptom of a mental illness such as depression or bipolar disorder. Or you may not have a mental illness. Suicidal thoughts also can serve instead as a symptom of extreme stress, overwhelming painful emotions, a sense of despair and hopelessness, or some other situation that the person experiences as unbearable.

Suicidal thoughts are not who you are. They do not define you. Instead, they happen to you. The same is true of conditions and situations that can lead to suicidality: depression, anxiety, trauma, schizophrenia, addiction, and other mental health issues. These conditions do not touch your truest, deepest self, what some may refer to as your soul or your essence.

Shame and Stigma

It’s hard to talk about shame about suicidality without also talking about stigma. Shame comes from inside the person. It is an emotion, an internal feeling of disgrace. Stigma, on the other hand, comes from outside the person. It is a mark of disgrace. Stigma comes from the messages that society sends out, messages that there is something fundamentally bad about people if they have certain conditions or qualities.

There is a tremendous amount of stigma toward people who think about, attempt or die by suicide. Many movies, press accounts, even random comments on the Internet portray suicidal individuals as cowardly, weak, selfish, defective – and so on. This harmful stigma ignores facts about biology, in particular neurobiology, illness, and the functioning of the brain.

Most importantly, stigma feeds into shame. Stigma reinforces for the suicidal person the idea that something is bad about him or her. And stigma causes many people not to seek help.  They simply are too embarrassed, too frightened, too ashamed.

What shall we do?

Rather than viewing suicidal thoughts as a character flaw, it is more helpful to look at their underlying meaning. What are your suicidal thoughts telling you that you need?

If you are thinking of dying, it could mean that you need to leave a toxic relationship, or quit a job, or learn new ways to cope, or do any number of things that might allow you to experience less pain without killing yourself. Your suicidal thoughts likewise could be a signal that you need a change in medication, or therapy, or more connection with others.

The shame itself is telling you something, too. It is telling you that you may have a wound, an injury deep inside of you that needs healing. You may even identify this wound as your self, you true self, not as a piece of your past.

Psychotherapy can help. So can other things. The practice of mindfulness meditation helps people to observe that their thoughts and feelings do not constitute their essence. Practicing compassion toward oneself can also help a person separate their selfhood from their problems or symptoms. Knowledge is power.

If you are currently experiencing periods of distress, it’s important to remember you are never ever alone and please use the following helplines for advice and information on sucide prevention.

Always remember you are not alone.

Samaritans

Tel: 116 123.

Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year. They provide a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Breathing Space: 0800 83 85 87

Free to call

Breathing Space is free to phone from a landline and any mobile phone network.

The phone number won’t show up on any telephone bills.

Breathing Space opening hours

24 hours at weekends (6pm Friday – 6am Monday).

6pm to 2am on weekdays (Monday – Thursday).

Phone and speak to a Breathing Space advisor on 0800 83 85 87.

Papyrus

HOPELINEUK: 0800 068 4141

papyrus-uk.org 

Support for anyone under 35 experiencing thoughts of suicide, or anyone concerned that a young person may be experiencing thoughts of suicide.

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Students Against Depression

Suicide and self-harm

Surviving suicidal thoughts

Students Against Depression is a website offering advice, information, guidance and resources to those affected by low mood, depression and suicidal thinking. Alongside clinically-validated information and resources it presents the experiences, strategies and advice of students themselves – after all, who are better placed to speak to their peers about how depression can be overcome.

Call the National Male Survivor Helpline:

0808 800 5005

The National Male Helpline for males living in England and Wales

Opening hours:

Monday 9am – 5pm

Tuesday 8am – 8pm

Wednesday 9am – 5pm

Thursday 8am – 8pm

Friday 9am – 5pm

Saturday 10am – 2pm

 

Self Harm & Young People

Young Minds

Parent’s Helpline: 0808 802 5544

youngminds.org.uk

For young people

Self harm

National charity committed, dedicated and passionate on improving the mental health of all children and young people, their Parents Information Service provides information and advice for any adult with concerns about a child or young person..

LGBT Helpline Scotland

The helpline is open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 12:00-9:00pm. Please call 0300 123 2523.

Switchboard

Helpline: 0300 330 0630

switchboard.lgbt

Switchboard offers a support and referral service for lesbians, gay men, bisexual people and anyone who needs to consider issues around their sexuality. Call them if you want to talk about your feelings, are frightened, confused or isolated. Maybe you’re falling in or out of love, coming to terms with your sexuality, or have feelings for a classmate or workmate. They certainly won’t tell you what to do. They definitely won’t judge you. Every call you make to them is private and confidential. They are there for you.

The Terence Higgins Trust

Freephone: 0800 802 1221

Sexuality and gender

Coming out

Growing up and entering the world of sex and relationships can seem confusing and worrying at first. If you are not sure if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you may find it helpful to talk to someone you trust about your feelings. THT is there to answer your questions and give you plenty of support.

Epilepsy Action Helpline:

If you would like to talk to someone regarding all things epilepsy, the organisation has trained facilitators who are there to help you.

They offer confidential and personal advice and you can tell them as much or as little as you feel. No question is a silly one.

Call 0808 800 50 50

Monday to Thursday 8.30am-8.00pm

Friday 8.30am-4.30pm

Saturday 10.00am-4.00pm

Steven Connelly

 

 

 

 

Talking Is Power

There is an increase in numbers of people in our society who have disclosed that they have suffered from mental health conditions and currently receiving treatment.

Unfortunately we are still living in a culture of silence in mental health especially within young men who are suffering in silence, it’s a silent crisis. Men struggle talking about there feelings as they want to feel masculine and don’t want to be judged and discriminated. Men feel insecure about talking as they feel weak(which is ridiculous and certainly not the case). They would rather get there frustrations out by playing computer games, going to the gym and realising energy by lifting weights and taking there emotions out on there body through self injury.

Stigma can also stop people opening up, sharing there thoughts and feelings and seeking help. It takes strength, bravery and courage to talk about mental health. Talking can strengthen relationships, break down the ignorance and stereotypes, take the taboo out of something that affects us all and most importantly it saves life’s.

I might come across as a confident and energetic guy but I’ve certainly had my ups and downs over the years, unfortunately more downs than ups. Don’t keep all your thoughts and feelings to yourself, a problem shared is a problem halved. If you are worried, concerned or anxious please speak up, you are never ever alone.

Steven Connelly

SUDEP

‘On SUDEP’

As a volunteer Befriender with Epilepsy Connections I know that the organisation takes awareness of SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death In Epilepsy) very seriously. It is a difficult and challenging topic, which requires “the conversation” and the knowledge to be shared at a carefully chosen moment. Today is SUDEP Action Day. A day which is essential to heighten individuals knowledge regarding SUDEP, and for some an opportunity to remember someone lost to SUDEP. Knowledge is power.

What is SUDEP?

SUDEP is sudden unexpected death in epilepsy, this is when a person with epilepsy dies very suddenlt and no other cause of death is found. We do not yet know the reason why SUDEP happens. It is highly unlikely that there is a single cause, but a combination of factors. (which highlights the importance of conversations and knowledge around risk factors).

Nevertheless, we are aware of the general risk factors:

·   Young adults (early age of epilepsy onset, before 16 years of age)

·   Nocturnal Seizures

·   Early age of seizures

·   Poor compliance with epilepsy treatments

·   Longer duration of epilepsy

·   Symptomatic epilepsy

·   Male Gender

Yet the risk factors only tell a very small part of the tale. Sometimes individuals with infrequent seizures pass away, while other individuals with more frequent and evidently much severe seizures do not. Several may be more at risk due to their social behaviour and lifestyle. It is a very complex picture.

Reducing risk

Individuals with epilepsy can take a very confident and serious approach by moderating their chances of SUDEP by making sure their general health and seizure independence is always put first. Good management of your seizures can be accomplished purely by having recurring appointments with your Epilepsy Neurologist and Specialist Nurse team. Decreasing the amount of your regular alcohol intake is a sensible idea as heavy drinking makes an individual more vulnerable to seizure activity around 6 to 48hrs after alcohol consumption. Taking your prescribed medication at it’s proper dose on a regular basis will decrease your chances. The importance of compliance with medication cannot be emphasised enough.

It is commonly known that uncontrolled seizure frequency is an element powerfully associated with an increased risk of SUDEP .

Life is amazing, short, special and precious, we should all live it to the full while we can as we don’t know that moment where it may be grabbed from underneath us.

Though I want to stress strongly that the risk of SUDEP is low, all elements that may lead to injury, damage, harm and hurt or loss of life should be implemented, there is much we can proactively do together to increase awareness and understanding of the risk factors.

The research goes on…in the meantime we must continue talking to each other and sharing experiences.

Steven Connelly

Recovery

I am a man but that doesn’t mean, I am resistant to mental health.

T

he shame and humiliation us men feel with regards to mental health is mortification. Unfortunately there is still ignorance and negativity attached to mental illness, yes even in 2018. Individuals will stereotype self harm in the attention seeking category, many people believe that mental illness sufferers are violent and dangerous, which certainly isn’t true, and are looking for attention. Patients are more at risk of being victims of crime and harming them selfs, rather than harming other people.

There is many reasons to why, people suffer in silence, every day is a different day, each feeling is different, there is lots of ways and reasons why day to day living impacts our lives, one of the biggest is modern living.

Some people may feel out their depths, they feel hopeless, can’t cope and living is just impossible. Other people can pull themselves together easily, but the next day might not be so easy. Know one can really interpret what’s actually happened in people’s minds, the human brain is a powerful and dynamic tool.

Men’s mental health gets neglected, which makes it more challenging for men to talk about their own personal experiences and feelings, well that’s what my own personal feelings and thoughts have been like.

Some individuals distance themselves away with someone who is suffering from mental health disorders, it is absolutely ridiculous and shocking, not realising they are actually making problems worse. Especially if the person you consider is a very dear friend and thought you could talk to and trust that person, suddenly turns their back on you.

My attempts to confide in family and friends never worked. I can’t really explain how I felt, I felt dazed and numbed, part of me was dead. All my thoughts and feelings were based on entirely ripping my skin to pieces and watching myself bleed, it was always a release for me, as i was lonely and isolated and tormented most days with tonic clonic, epileptic seizures, I was devastated it took over my life.

I battled with my own personal mental health problems, my epilepsy diagnosis, dealing with break ups, my mums passing. I discovered myself to be at loose ends, waking up alone, and being uninvited to social gathers with so called friends, I discovered people had spoken negatively about me behind my back.

I was constantly worrying and anxious about my seizure control, concerned and nervous about when the lighting would strike again. I just wished that I could live a normal life and not be burdened by such a condition, what did I do to deserve this at 21 years of age. I was always hoping that all my negative thoughts and feelings would disappear soon.

The only cure for me, that could put everything right, was to self harm. Loneliness and anxiety became just normal for me. Being on edge, not being able to sleep or eat made me wonder if life is worth carrying on for, what is the point really?

Depression isn’t just something that suddenly happened. I didn’t go to be one evening happy, by morning I was sad. In my case it was trapped a feeling that kept building up for months, or even perhaps years, who knows. Unable to talk to people, talking pushed people away. I was great at hiding how I was feeling, I suppose at least I was good at something. I smiled confidently as if everything in my world was amazing and I walked on.

In 2016 not long before I discovered Epilepsy Connections, negative thoughts spiralling out of control, constant thoughts that I wasn’t good enough, all my thoughts were negative ones and all related to seriously hurting myself. I tortured myself by pouring a kettle of boiling water over my right arm. After I self harmed, wow I can’t even describe the realise I got from it, unfortunately that realise was short lived and my distress i had been feeling was still with me this time and with a constant dull, stabbing and aching pain.

To this very day I feel disgusting, ashamed and extremely guilty as I covered up my self harm burns by lying and confessing to family and friends, I had a seizure while making tea. I am sickened with my lies, i needed to protect and support myself, I was frightened and terrified of the possibility of staying in a mental health hospital.

One day I thought, this is it, this has got to be it. I am ashamed of lying, what type of person am I? On another level I felt so worried about upsetting my family about being dishonest I never wanted to give anyone a reason to be hurt or doubt me.

I am now 35 and haven’t self-harmed for over a year. I have no ambition to harm myself in any way. I am a confident person, my self esteem increases every single day. I appreciated love and life now, I relish In meeting new people and take pleasure and pride in taking time to talk to people and socialising.

I now love my life

Mental health is part of everyone’s life, know one should feel ashamed to open up and talk and their feelings. We talk every day, it’s the main point of contact for people. If words can hurt and create disruptions, they can equally create comfort, piece of mind and help support each other, through good times but especially the bad.

Steven Connelly

Recovering From Self Harm

Earlier this week our current group of participants at Epilepsy Futures were lucky to be given the opportunity to engage in a workshop provided by Emma and Erin from Write To Recovery. I was privileged to take part in the session as part of my peer mentoring role for group three.

Write To Recovery is for absolutely anyone who has ever experienced any forms of distress, depression, discrimination, a health condition or a mental health difficulty that’s causing pain and upset in your daily life. It encourages you to share your thoughts, feelings and stories as this can be beneficial in your recovery. After all everyone has a story or two to tell.

This is mine.

In a way I can still see, almost feel and taste my seventeen young old self Living in a venerable, frightened, confused and panic stricken world full of uncertainty and unexpected circumstances from occurring.

I was extremely distressed and disconnected from the world that surrounded me. I felt uncomfortable and unable to express my negative thoughts, feelings and emotions that tormented me every single day which was living in my head.

I can recall when I discovered self harming. It was definitely a release from the extreme fear and anxiety, that I was was enduring, my knifes suddenly became my best friends. Self harming in my opinion is an exceptional and effective method of addressing the issues and only supposed to be a short term solution, unfortunately it is certainly easy to keep slipping into regular patterns of self harm when life becomes too much and unbearable.

Sometimes to harm is a way to remind yourself I am actually still living even though I can’t feel anything.

I can place myself back in that person, know it, feel it and realise the familiarity and yet at the same time it feels so distant, far removed, a moment, memory and time gone by.

I welcome that I can reflect and know that I am not in that place anymore, and I even value the negative nostalgia – for I know I made it through, and I know I have grown stronger, more resilient and more equipped with a toolbox of healthy coping mechanisms through addressing my self-harm.

I began self-harming at the age of seventeen this progressed to a daily ritualistic action. I was regularly injuring myself as a way to externally manifest the pain, hopelessness, guilt and confusion I was feeling inside.

At the time I was also in the depths and darkness of epilepsy always waiting for the next tonic clonic seizure to occur and paralyse me physically and mentally.

Looking at me as a person at present i absolutely love supporting and inspiring individuals with epilepsy and health needs and difficulties. I am proud of myself privileged and honoured to be involved with Epilepsy Connections and to be given the opportunity’s to volunteer with them within a range of there services.

Always remember that you are not alone .

Steven Connelly

One Special Day

On Saturday 8th September our Epilepsy Connections Annual General Meeting took place in the ravishing surroundings of the Radisson Blu Hotel, Glasgow.

The event is an opportunity to celebrate all our achievements and accomplishments for people living with epilepsy and also to recognize those people in the community who have made an impressive and influential difference through the Epilepsy Connections Volunteering Awards.

I am honoured to have been acknowledged for an award, in recognition of my achievements, rasing awareness of Epilepsy.

I was in considerable outstanding company, as Carol McNeil and Ros Carmichael were highly rewarded for their exceptional approaches and achievements to volunteering within the organisation, and very well deserved.

It was a complete surprise and shock to myself, to learn that i was going to receive an award at the event. My volunteer coordinator Scott Coyne, announced the exciting news to myself a few months prior to the ceremony, all i could think, really? Seriously? Why me?

The ambience of the stunning hotel greatly added to the sense of the day’s occasion. It was also a pleasure and a fantastic opportunity to bring staff, board members and volunteers together from all our diverse and various projects, from Ayrshire and Arran, to Forth Vally, Falkirk District and Clackmannanshire, through to greater Glasgow and Clyde, it doesn’t happen very often.

We were joined by professional guest speakers.

Dr Linda Stephen, (Associate Epilepsy Specialist) who highlighted issues faced by women, Epilepsy and their treatment options, which included essential information regarding Epilepsy and hormones, puberty, contraception, pregnancy and the menopause.

An update presentation from Dr Stewart Macleod (Consultant Paediatric Neurologist) with detailed information regarding the use of Cannabinoids in Epilepsy.

I enjoyed both presentations, they were extremely effective, engaging and thought provoking.

Linda outlined and discussed various issues that are important to women. Her presentation was constructive and worthwhile, there is lots to deal with when diagnosed with Epilepsy but if your a women there’s a lot more to contemplate, most women don’t realise this. Impact of hormones and what that means for your seizure control, choosing the correct seizure medication that is appropriate for you, contraception, pregnancy, parenting, The menopause and the list goes on.

This was a significant and informative session, that made women and also men aware of the consequences of Epilepsy and medications within their bodies.

Dr Stewart Macleods presentation on the use of cannabinol in Epilepsy was fascinating and momentous, giving lots of hope to individuals with treatment resultant Epilepsy including Dravet Syndrome and Lennox Gastaut Syndrome as there is a cannabinol product in development at the moment and potentially due for license next year.

Amazing and life changing news, it will have a dramatic effect on the individual and their families effected by this debilitating, chronic and unpredictable condition.

I have given my certificate pride of place in my living room, where it attracts lots of attention, and it certainly has raised our organisations profile. I was moved and i couldn’t quite believe the amount of people who came up to me on the day and congratulated me. I am still receiving beautiful messages of congratulations and kindness a few weeks on, i am truly overwhelmed.

It’s a wonderful way to show appreciation and gratitude to volunteers for all of their efforts and contributions to the organisation, thank you Epilepsy Connections.

I am delighted and surprised to have been chosen as a volunteer award winner 2018, after all there is so many exceptional volunteers within Epilepsy Connections.

I am passionate and have so much enthusiasm regarding providing care and support to individuals of all ages who are living with Epilepsy. I am touched to be acknowledged for a voluntary role that i absolutely love and dedicated to.

Thank you and congratulations to everyone at Epilepsy Connections for running such an innovative and successful Annual General Meeting.

Steven Connelly

New Year, New Me

Happy New Year!  Now there is a expression bursting with a multitude of endless opportunities, possibilities, anticipation, aspirations and challenges.

Will 2019 be the year of change, possibility and positivity. We can certainly never tell. Do we welcome in the new year with self assurance that we will embrace, joy, contentment and gratification.

I have a Invisible Disability, i don’t mean to be negative but whilst it might seem 100% impossible or out of reach, with proper support you can turn your whole life around, never give up on your ambitions well that’s my opinion anyway.

If i look back over the last few years, my whole world was filled with darkness, blackness and negativity. The difficulties and challenges that i was confronted with on a daily basis regarding my epilepsy was distressing for me, i felt very lonesome, distressed, frightened but i was faced with all sorts of thoughts, feelings and questions including am i ever going to improve. 

I wasn’t able to leave the house apart from a small number of visits to my local shop. I was terrified and fearful of having a seizure outside and attracting an audience. Unfortunately i was taking tonic clonic seizures every day and dislocated my shoulder into the process. My grandparents at all times were extremely supportive, considerate and understanding, telephoning me everyday and my gran provided amazing meals and transported them to me when she visited. I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, only darkness.

I grieved, for the loss of all the opportunities and adventures that i hadn’t been able to take part in, the events i enjoyed attending, places i loved exploring, particularly spending special time with family and friends.

Regardless of what your thoughts, feelings and facing at the moment however dark and dismal your days may be trust me there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow and future, never ever give up. Talk to people who understand, people who will be positive, supportive and encouraging towards you. Look for new strategies, set yourself goals to try, new ways to make a difference, new ideas and always follow your dreams.

Will this be a successful, inspiring and rewarding 2019. Never stop trying and like me you will be amazing, astonished and proud of what you can achieve in just one year. I have an amazing, loving and understanding partner and i absolutely love volunteering with Epilepsy Connections, raising awareness on the condition and providing support and leadership to individuals living with epilepsy, i genuinely didn’t believe any of this was possible. All of our dreams will come true, just believe in yourself and never look back, keep smiling and move forward.

Happy New Year

Steven Connelly